Back to Conservation

Protecting Pond Turtles

 

Making a Splash for Pond Turtles

 

The Pacific pond turtle natural habitatWhere an animal or plant normally lives and grows. is slow-moving streams and large rivers along the western coast of the United States. But their numbers have been decreasing. They have lost habitatWhere an animal or plant normally lives and grows. when rivers are dammed, and invasive speciesA group of individuals that have many of the same characteristics, and are different from all other animals in some important way. Hamsters and mice are two different species of rodent. such as crayfish, trout, red-eared sliders and bullfrogs preyNoun: An animal that is hunted as food by another animal. Verb: To attempt to take an animal for food. on them and eat the food they would normally eat. These invasive speciesA group of individuals that have many of the same characteristics, and are different from all other animals in some important way. Hamsters and mice are two different species of rodent. have taken their toll and native pond turtles have dwindled to only 120 in 5 locations in the San Diego region.

 

Biologists and keepers from San Diego Zoo Global have worked with government agencies to learn more about these turtles and give their populationThe number of a kind of animal that lives in a place. For example, San Francisco has a big seagull population; New York City has a population of several million people. a boost. Pregnant female turtles were collected from local areas and brought to the San Diego Zoo. There, the moms-to-be laid their eggs in carefully prepared nesting chambers. After the eggs were laid, the adult female turtles were released back into their homes in the wild, and we took care of the eggs. When they hatched after a few months, we carefully reared the quarter-sized youngsters. In the wild, these hatchlings would be easy preyNoun: An animal that is hunted as food by another animal. Verb: To attempt to take an animal for food. for hungry predators. We gave them a head start by raising them in a safe place. When they reached about the size of an English muffin and had a better chance of surviving, we got ready to send them home.

 

Each turtle was fitted with a teeny-tiny “radio pack” that held a GPS device with an antennae. The equipment was carefully attached to each turtle in a spot that would not interfere with the growth of the shell.  The turtles were carried in a special container as the staff hiked to a spot that had everything a pond turtle could want: rocks and logs for sunbathing, plants to hide among, and plenty of food! Nonnative predators like bullfrogs were removed from the area before we released the turtles.

 

The turtles are being tracked through their GPS packs. The information will help us better understand how these special reptiles use their habitatWhere an animal or plant normally lives and grows.. That information will help people find ways to keep protecting Pacific pond turtles so they will paddle and hunt for a long time.